Estorick – On The Move

I visited the Estorick Collection recently as they are showing an exhibition called On the Move: Visualising Action. The collection specialises in Italian Futurism and the exhibition curated by Jonathan Miller is a natural extension of the Futurists’ interest in all things dynamic. Almost all the art shown was known to me but it was still a treat to see a Marey sculpture of a seagull in the flesh and one of his camera guns.

There was a strange Thomas Eatkins Multiple Exposure called Differential action study : man on ladder, moving horses stripped leg, while second man at left looks on (1885). Eatkins was an innovator in motion photography for artists (following the Muybridge model) and is considered “the strongest, most profound realist in nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century American art”. His attempted accuracy of observation and title is touching.

Also present are some photos (or should that be snapshots) by Lartigue. He was amoung the first to have a fast enough camera to freeze motion and he used it to fun effect during the turn of the century.

The bulk of the show is photography – the perfect technology to visualise motion, and the technical achievements of Edgerton are still striking 50 years on. Edgerton cautioned, “Don’t make me out to be an artist. I am an engineer. I am after the facts, only the facts.” One of Edgerton’s fellow engineers was called Djon Mili and his name was new to me. His photographs of dancers for Life magazine certainly tip the balance firmly from science toward art.

Another photograph commisioned by Life magazine was this portrait of Marcel Duchamp walking down a flight of stairs, taken by Eliot Elisofon. While I find its coming-full-circle-ness slightly lumpen, I have to admit that the driving force in a lot of this art is of technology enabling the artists to see something new – this was true in Duchamp’s time (he needed the photos of Marey to work from), it was true in 1952 (when strobe lighting enables the effect below), and it is true now in my project (software/hardware didn’t exist to do it 10 years ago).

Contemporary art was represented by Idris Khan, Jonathan Shaw and the exhibition tentatively suggested that in the future, 3d CAD systems would be used as a way of visualising motion with a lovely bird flight prototype by Geoffrey Mann. Hopefully in the future I can work more closely with the gallery on a project.

For anyone interested in the artistic depiction of motion this show is a must see. It is on until mid april. Here’s a link to the Estorick Collection website.

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